Culture Hacking: The Real Secret to Mastering a Language

Do you ever feel like you just can’t move on to the next level with the language you’re learning?

You put in tons of effort, but it just feels impossible to move off the plateau?

You have a large vocabulary, and you understand a lot but when it comes to speaking, you keep wondering why you can’t sound like a native speaker?

Well, I had the same feeling with English when I started to learn it many years ago. It’s a language radically different from my mother tongue, Hungarian, and after reaching an upper-intermediate level, I was wondering if I would ever speak like a native.

I spent long, endless hours memorising flashcards and going through grammar books. I diligently immersed myself by reading tons of articles. But somehow I felt very far from true mastery of the language. I could manage everyday situations in English but I was hopelessly far from being mistaken for a native speaker even for a fleeting moment.

How Linguistics Completely Transformed My English Journey

When I discovered cognitive linguistics and cultural semantics (more on that later – it’s not as scary as it sounds), I went from one “aha!” moment to another. Soon, I realized why I was wrong about languages.

I used to look at learning a language as most of us are led to believe:

  1. Memorise many words and phrases
  2. Apply grammar to them to make sentences
  3. Practise with others to make your reactions automatic

Needless to say, it’s easy to get tired of this process and lose motivation. It took me quite a while to break free from this mindset.

Thankfully, after getting my hands on some of the best linguistic research I could find, a whole new world opened up before me. I could now see a tremendous wealth of culture and imagination where I had only seen a randomly connected sequence of sounds before.

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